Can the Louisville Cardinals handle Julius Randle this time?

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Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

Mysterious cramps and all, Julius Randle absolutely dominated against the Louisville Cardinals for the time that he was in the game on December 28th. And a lot of people (Louisville fans specifically) tend to forget that Randle sat most of the second half and the Cardinals still could not cut into the Kentucky lead. So what can we expect this time around? Can the Cards control Randle in the paint?

Here is the list of University of Louisville basketball players who were unable to guard Julius Randle when Kentucky defeated U of L, 73-66, in Rupp Arena three months ago:

Exhibit A: Mangok Mathiang. Randle roared past him for several thunderous baskets while scoring seven of UK’s first 14 points. Dribble, dribble. Oh, my.

“We took him lightly and he did what he does best, which is score and try to bully everybody,” Mathiang said.

Exhibit B: Stephan Van Treese. Randle scored over him after a James Young steal. The replay is scary.

“We played poorly defensively that game,” Van Treese said.

Exhibit C: Luke Hancock. Randle left Hancock in the distance on the perimeter once, too. It was a group issue.

“He’s a mismatch problem for any team,” Hancock said.

Exhibit D: Chane Behanan. Randle made the former Cardinal look like a former defender even before Behanan left the team.

Exhibit E: Ryan Pitino, Paul Rogers, Tom Jurich and Dr. James Ramsey. I’m just making certain I didn’t forget anybody on Rick Pitino’s U of L roster. Nobody could guard Randle. He started at a point per minute rate.

In 17 minutes, Randle made seven of eight shots, missing only a three-pointer while scoring 17 points. He grabbed three rebounds. He looked like the best player on the floor – or country.

To be honest, I’m not buying that the Cardinals are better in the paint without Behanan. They are down nearly four rebounds a game since December 28th and Dakari Johnson is playing a lot better. Kentucky has a real potential to dominate down low tonight.

Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Of course, the pro Louisville argument will be the experience argument. And Louisville has a lot more experience than Kentucky. And the Wildcats still won in December.

The real shame of this whole Kentucky vs Louisville game is that you have sportswriters who simply can not write about the game. They have to push their own agenda. And it’s a shame that some lazy sportswriters allow this to cloud their judgement about the game.

 

In my view, increasing stipends for athletes in major college sports is long overdue — and not just to end the One-and-Done travesty.

The rule makes a mockery of the term “student-athlete.” To play one season, an athlete has to be eligible for only the fall semester.

Academic performance can slip in the spring semester, but an athlete can compete through the basketball season without consequence.

Wouldn’t you like to know how frequently these Kentucky freshmen starters are attending classes right now?

 

Why do I say lazy sportswriters?  Because it took me about fifteen seconds to find this on Google.  And if you notice, it is the NON scholarship players that drag the team GPA down.

Of the 12 teams that competed in regular-season play during the fall, 10 had GPAs of better than 3.0. That includes the men’s basketball team at 3.038, marking the fourth straight semester in which John Calipari’s program has had a GPA better than 3.0.

 

Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not all unwarranted Calipari – hate in the media though.  Rightfully so, Cal is being recognized for doing one of the best coaching jobs in the tournament thus far.

Best patience (tie): John Calipari, Kentucky Wildcats

After watching Kentucky play like a Final Four team against previously undefeated Wichita State, one may wonder how this Wildcats team could lose 10 games this season. I take the opposite approach. As the youngest team in college basketball may finally be finding its stride, Calipari deserves credit for nurturing a team’s togetherness that was missing for much of the season.

The Wildcats played smart, efficient and unselfish basketball against the Shockers, and although the defense was not elite, this finally looked like a team that could win it all. Julius Randle, who has been double-teamed for much of the season, was outstanding in moving the ball out of the low post and finding his Wildcats teammates on the other side of the court. He finished with six assists against Wichita State.

Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison also showed why they were so highly touted coming out of high school. Against the Shockers, they both took high-percentage shots and set the pace. This allowed for more ball movement with a purpose, leading to an outstanding 1.26 points per possession on Sunday.

Coaching great talent is not always as easy as it looks, but Calipari has made it happen again.

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